The Florida Supreme Court on Monday reprimanded a former Broward County circuit judge because of her conduct while presiding over the case of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.
The court unanimously issued a one-paragraph reprimand of Elizabeth Scherer, who reached an agreement in June with an investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. The agreement called for a reprimand, but the Supreme Court has ultimate authority to determine disciplinary action.
A document filed by the panel said the investigation involved allegations that Scherer “engaged in inappropriate behavior while presiding over the penalty-phase and sentencing proceedings” in the case of Cruz, who was sentenced to life in prison last year for killing 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
In part, the panel said Scherer “unduly chastised defense counsel” and “embraced members of the prosecution” after Cruz was sentenced. “The worldwide publicity surrounding the case created stress and tension for all participants,” the panel said in its findings and recommendation of discipline. “However, regardless of the gravity of the accusations or level of attention given a matter, the commission expects that a judge will ensure due process, order and decorum, and act always with dignity and respect to promote the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. In limited instances during this unique and lengthy case, Judge Scherer allowed her emotions to overcome her judgment.”
Scherer announced in May that she would resign, effective June 30. Unlike at least some other judicial disciplinary cases, Monday’s decision indicated Scherer will not have to appear before the Supreme Court to receive the reprimand. The decision said the court holds that Scherer “shall receive a public reprimand, which will be accomplished by publication of this order.”
–News Service of Florida